Rep. Schiff Applauds Decision to End Bulk Collection and Require Prior Court Approval, Ready to Work In Congress on Bipartisan Basis to Implement Reforms and Go Farther
Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior Member of the Intelligence Committee and sponsor of several pieces of legislation to reform the National Security Agency (NSA), released the following statement after the President laid out his principles for reforming the intelligence community in light of privacy concerns:
"Today, President Obama articulated the fundamental principles at stake in the debate over how to reform our surveillance programs, and how we should balance security with privacy. The choices we make now to protect privacy, both for our citizens and for those overseas, will define us as a nation. I am pleased that the President clearly took the concern of the Review Group, Congress, and the American people seriously by announcing concrete steps to protect privacy, enhance oversight, and improve transparency of America's surveillance efforts. Though the steps announced today are important, it will be up to Congress to implement many of these changes, as well as others, and to ensure that they are durable across future Administrations.
"I was particularly pleased to hear the President's support for moving call record data outside of the NSA and requiring a court order to search it. The telephony metadata program is not without value, but the program can be restructured so that the government no longer collects the calling records of Americans in bulk. Doing so will achieve the same goals of protecting the nation from terrorism, but also be more respectful of privacy and with a minimal loss in efficiency. I have introduced legislation to end bulk collection and to require instead that the government seek an individualized court order authorizing a search of the phone records already held by phone companies as part of their regular business practices – this approach would be far more protective of privacy and less prone to possible abuse than the current program. The Congress should reject proposals that would house call records in some third party entity - such an entity will be rightly perceived as a subsidiary of the NSA and would do little to build public confidence.
"I also was pleased to hear the President's support for an adversary before the FISA Court so that there is a party charged with advocating on behalf of privacy and civil liberties of Americans. However, the devil will be in the details. Specifically, I believe this 'public interest advocate' should only be appointed in certain cases involving programmatic requests and novel legal and technical issues. I also believe the advocate must be truly independent and have access to the technical expertise necessary to independently evaluate the government's arguments before the FISA Court. My legislation would create a pool of private attorneys with sufficient clearance and expertise to serve in this crucial role.
"As the debate moves to Congress, I'm prepared to work on a bipartisan basis to implement the reforms proposed by the President and indeed go farther, and to ensure that our intelligence and surveillance activities protect our country while holding true to the values that have made our nation worth protecting."
Schiff has introduced several pieces of reform legislation. First, Schiff introduced legislation, the "Telephone Metadata Reform Act," which would restructure the telephone metadata program by specifically removing call records from the types of information the Government can obtain under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Instead, records would be obtained on a case by case basis from the telephone companies subject to approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Second, Schiff introduced the "Ending Secret Law Act" which would require the Attorney General to declassify significant Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions, allowing Americans to know how the Court has interpreted the legal authorities created under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. Third, Schiff introduced legislation to require that the 11 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Fourth, Schiff introduced legislation to require the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to create a pool of attorneys with experience in Fourth Amendment or national security law to argue the side of the public when the government requests a surveillance warrant in the FISA Court.